Monday, 31 October 2011

Hints for Anyone Going in for NaNoWriMo

Tomorrow sees the start of NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is to write a 50,000 word novel from scratch over the course of the next 30 days - that's 1666 words per day.  The aim is for quantity rather than quality. 

I think it's a good idea - if the pressure doesn't make you feel stressed, or a failure if you miss the targets.  Try to keep it as a fun thing, and not another chore.  

Here are my tips for keeping on writing:

1. Start with at least 3 major plot turns.  I did a class last week where everybody got 3 at random and had to outline a novel length plot.  Examples of the plot points were Someone reveals something, someone discovers something and someone succeeds at something.  Whatever it is, it has to mean a major change for the characters.  

2.  Use names well.  Jane is not as good as Mary Jane, which in turn isn't as good as Miss Mary Jane. Remember you're going for word count targets.  Ditto place names.  Kingston on Thames, anyone?

3. Don't waste any time looking up words in a dictionary or thesaurus.  The same goes for metaphors and similes.  Oh, and cliches are fine.  Use the first thing that comes into your head - it's about quantity, not quality.  

4. Description of what people are wearing can add a couple of hundred words easily.  Also describe locations in loving detail.

5.  Plot ninja is a new term for me, but it covers an event that acts like the literary equivalent of a ninja leaping out of a cupboard - the story spins into a new direction.  Get a store of plot ninjas before you start and write them out on cards.  Then, when you get stuck, pick one at random.  Examples might include: an unexpected letter turns up, the phone rings with an unwelcome message, someone turns up at the door, the electricity fails, the car breaks down.  When in doubt, introduce a new character (and a whole new set of clothes/personal habits/quirks to write about).

6.  Remember that dialogue can be as aimless as it often is in real life.  Long rambling conversations that go no where are just fine for NaNoWriMo.  

The overall idea is to release you from your inner editor and critic and just get writing.  At the end of the month you may have 50,000 words of tripe, but there will be some nuggets there - there may even be a story.  Use the month for having fun and giving it a go and seeing what happens.  And remember, whatever you write can always be re-written later on. 


Rai said...

I'm in! After I finish this essay....

Sarah Duncan said...

Good luck Rai - with the essay and NaNo!

Paula Martin said...

Great post, thanks! I'm doing NaNo for the first time, and have great doubts about being able to turn off my inner editor.

Penny said...

Yep - this will be my fifth go! It's such fun, and I love using all those cliches without feeling guilty :-)

Has always been useful for 'mining' for ideas afterwards. It's amazing what the subconscious comes up with once the Demon Editor is banished.

Paula, Rai - shall I see you there? I'm 'Lucy May'

Penny said...

PS ...and the title of Lucy May's NaNoNovel this year is 'The Chimneysweep's Parrot.'


Tenerus said...

I'm going to give it a go; I'm pursuing five ideas at the mo (two novels, a naval history, and two photo/haiku books that I'm exploring publishing as ebooks for tablets) but I've harkened to your advice to concentrate on only one project at a time or otherwise make no progress on any).

I've also forwarded the link to two friends, Esperanza and Tony (though he's more interested in scriptwriting).

Sarah Duncan said...

Good luck to you all! (And you should be at least 1600 words in by now...)

Paula - given you can write any old thing in your NaNo novel, why not make your inner editor a character who does a running commentary alongside the main story. That way you could add words AND keep on writing AND hopefully, by giving your inner editor a voice, get rid of their effect. At the end you could delete all the commentary so you wouldn't have to be stuck with it, esp if you did those bits in italics or bold, so you could easily locate it. Just an idea.

Penny, wow, I'm so impressed you've done it 4 times before. I've tried -and failed - twice. Love the title!

Phil - one thing at a time is best IMO, esp as NaNo is only for a month. It's the old Don't get it right, get it written scenario.